AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- World champion Sebastian Loeb of
France, driving a Citroen, won the Rally of New Zealand by 49.8
seconds Sunday to move into second place in the world drivers'
Loeb began the day 51 seconds ahead of double world champion
Marcus Gronholm and managed to nearly maintain that advantage to
post his second win in four rallies this season.
Gronholm won the first three stages Sunday to cut Loeb's lead to
40.1 seconds. Loeb was 10 seconds faster than any of his rivals on
the 18.49-mile final stage on the Whaanga Coast.
The win took Loeb to 25 points in the standings, only a point
behind Norway's Petter Solberg, who drove his Subaru into third
place, 1:08 behind Loeb and almost 10 seconds behind Gronholm.
Francois Duval of Belgium took fourth place in the second
Citroen for his first points of the season, while Markko Martin of
Estonia improved one place on the final day to take fifth ahead of
Loeb dominated the rally from the middle of the first leg
Friday, when he made astute tire selections and took advantage of
drying gravel roads on the stages north of Auckland.
He led by 53 seconds at the end of Day 1, maintained that lead
over Gronholm and Solberg on Saturday and closed the rally Sunday
with measured driving.